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Sunday, October 31, 2010

City Funding

This article was about the city of Colorado Springs’ budget, and cuts that have been made due to recent decreased tax revenue. The article pointed out that the Parks and Rec services have been diminished due to lack of funding. The article says that budget cuts forced the city to close all its swimming facilities, and some were taken over by private swim clubs, while others were unable to find funding to stay open.

The city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department provides services to the city that include: providing aquatic and ice activities, adult and youth sports, community and senior centers, therapeutic recreation, as well as the city auditorium, and furnishing safe and clean environments (City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services website).

Other budget cuts reduced more public services around the city. Some cuts included maintenance of parks, flower beds, and medians, which are now overgrown and not watered enough. Bus service and infrastructure work have been reduced, and a number of police and fire fighter jobs have been eliminated as well. They can no longer collect trash or keep restrooms open at public parks, and many streetlights no longer light up at night.


My first question is: are public swimming facilities a public good? The government should only provide services to the public if there is a market failure due to a monopoly, externalities, or if the good is a public good. It seems to me that none of these qualities apply to swimming facilities. The private market is able to provide some swimming facilities, which is efficient. Swimming facilities are an excludable as well as a rival good. They are excludable because everybody has to pay a fee if they want to get in to the pool and use it for a day. Swimming facilities are also a rival good because different swimming facilities can offer different specialty services or activities, all of which require a fee to participate in, such as indoor wave pools and water slides, swim lessons, birthday parties, and fitness opportunities.

It seems to me that many of the goods provided by Parks and Rec are beneficial to the community because they provide outdoor activities and recreational areas for free. It does not seem to fit that they also provide goods such as swimming pools, golf courses, or rentals of boating equipment for lakes, because these could be provided by the market by private businesses, as people are charged money for them and are able to make a profit. Because taxes paid in Colorado are used to pay for facilities and services provided by Parks and Rec, all Colorado citizens should have equal access to them, and should not be charged to use them.

The city has programs for citizens to “adopt a street light” and “adopt a trash can,” and is increasingly relying on volunteers’ efforts to maintain some of its services, including visitors’ centers and museums, and a fountain downtown. The article questions the role of government and what should be receiving funding. Decreasing police and fire fighters for a growing population puts the public’s safety at risk, and necessary services such as these and bus routes will be the first to receive additional funding as it becomes available. Other services, such as swimming facilities and maintenance of medians will likely need to be funded through the private sector.

I believe it would be a more efficient result to cut the budget for swimming facilities and golf courses because they are not public goods, rather than funding for services that are public goods, such as neighborhood lighting, maintenance of parks and trails, and public safety.

Sources:

Patton, Zach. Colorado Springs' Do-It-Yourself Government: The citizens of Colorado Springs must decide how much they want from their government, and how much they're willing to pay for it.” Sept 2010. http://www.governing.com/topics/mgmt/Colorado-Springs-DIY-government.html

City of Colorado Springs: Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services. http://www.springsgov.com


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